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Cornell Probing Reported Break-In at Professor’s Office

December 5, 2022

Cornell University says it’s investigating reported vandalism and theft at a professor’s office. The faculty member, Samia Henni, assistant professor of architecture, declined to comment or answer questions about the situation, citing the investigation. An online petition signed by many scholars of architecture and other supporters from around the world expresses concern that the September incident was motivated by disdain for Henni’s work and views. The petition also demands that Cornell share its preliminary findings with Henni and that it condemn the episode.

“Dr. Henni is a world leading scholar whose work on colonialism, wars, deserts, nuclear weapons, her solidarity with Palestinians, and her denunciation of oppression and dispossession are at the very forefront of profound changes in the field of architectural history, urban studies, and visual culture,” the petition says. “The attack on Dr. Henni should have received swift public condemnation from Cornell University and no effort should have been spared in regards to the crime investigation, academic freedom, and personal safety. Instead, Cornell University Police Department did not notify Cornell community through the usual crime alert, and Cornell University did not make the attack known to the broader academic community, nor did it condemn it.”

Joel M. Malina, university spokesperson, said in a statement Friday, “The Cornell University Police Department is pursuing all leads. The leadership of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, as well as the provost’s office and CUPD, have all met multiple times with Professor Henni, and the university will continue to offer support.”

Henni has experienced controversy and online criticism surrounding her work, including in 2020, when she organized a lecture series at Cornell featuring a talk called “Palestine Is There, Where It Has Always Been.” Henni, who was born in Algeria and whose work examines architecture and colonialization, took a leave from Cornell to do research in Europe starting in 2021 and returned to Cornell in August.

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